Planet Rugby

Preview: Blues v Bulls

08th March 2013 12:13

Share:

Rene Ranger Blues v Bulls 2012

Blues dangerman: Rene Ranger

The Bulls will have it all to do against the in-form team of the tournament when they take on the Blues at Auckland's Eden Park.

Whilst both sides are undefeated thus far with two wins from two, the Kiwi outfit have stood out head and shoulders above their South African counterparts.

The Aucklanders' surprise demolition job of the Hurricanes and Crusaders, with the latter kept tryless for the first time in several years, have been most impressive. The eye-catching back-to-back victories is also a first for the Blues in a Super Rugby season since 2008.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are yet to click into fifth gear having escaped with wins over the Stormers and Western Force in Pretoria. Though the three-time Super Rugby champions occupy top spot in the SA conference (and third overall), a loss in New Zealand could very well see the Sharks leapfrog them if they beat the Kings.

History also is against the visitors at Eden Park, where they have never managed to record a win against the Blues. The closest they've ever came to beating the Blues away from home was in 2008, when they lost 21-23 despite outscoring their opponents by three tries to two.

Added to this, the Bulls also lost their last home game against the Blues (in 2012), meaning their last victory over the New Zealanders was back in the opening round of 2009.

And Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is well aware of the challenge facing his troops, who have won five of their last six opening matches overseas.

"They (the Blues) play very enterprising rugby," said Ludeke.

"We have been up and down and our aim will be to produce the good spells for longer.

"We also know we will have to pick up points on tour if we want to be around at the business end of the competition".

Both sides have made wholesale changes for this Round Four hit-out, though the Bulls' selection has been more injury-forced than anything else with Bjorn Basson, Francois Hougaard, Werner Kruger and Chiliboy Ralepelle all missing from last week's starting line-up.

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has opted to rotate his squad in a bid to give a number of players the chance to impress. That means Tim Perry, Quentin MacDonald, Liaki Moli and Kane Barrett will come into the pack, while Baden Kerr and Waisake Naholo are added to the backs.

Prediction: Do we think the Bulls can break their Auckland duck and beat the Blues for the first time ever in New Zealand? No we don't. Blues by nine!

The teams:

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Ronald Raaymakers, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 Albert Nikoro.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jürgen Visser.

Date: Sunday, March 10
Kick-off: 16:05 (03:05 GMT)
Venue: Eden Park
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Heineken Cup
Saturday , April 26
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne15:40
Sunday , April 27
Toulon vs Munster15:30
More Heineken Cup fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 26
Glasgow vs Edinburgh19:05
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , April 25
Northampton vs Harlequins20:00
Sunday , April 27
Wasps vs Bath13:00
More Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 25
Blues vs Waratahs17:35
Brumbies vs Chiefs17:40
Sharks vs Highlanders19:10
Saturday , April 26
Hurricanes vs Reds19:35
Western Force vs Bulls17:40
Cheetahs vs Stormers17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 20
Northampton 36 - 21 London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Report
Newcastle 18 - 23 SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Cardiff Blues 17 - 13 ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 10 - 20 Ospreys
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Bath 32 - 20 WorcesterBath vs Worcester Report
Exeter 12 - 55 SaleExeter vs Sale Report
Wasps 38 - 30 GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Zebre 26 - 13 EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Report
Connacht 23 - 32 MunsterConnacht vs Munster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Oyonnax 19 - 19 ToulouseOyonnax vs Toulouse Report
Perpignan 31 - 46 ToulonPerpignan vs Toulon Report
Biarritz 19 - 13 Brive
Grenoble 21 - 21 Bayonne
Stade Francais 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Racing Metro Paris 22 - 6 Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 17 - 18 CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Report
Sharks 19 - 8 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
Stormers 18 - 3 LionsStormers vs Lions Report
Waratahs 19 - 12 BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Castres 22 - 15 MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens2080
2Northampton2071
3Bath2064
4Leicester Tigers2064
5Harlequins2058